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Electronic Communications: European Commission launches infringement proceedings against eight Member States

Commission Européenne - IP/03/1356   08/10/2003

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IP/03/1356

Brussels, 8 October 2003

Electronic Communications: European Commission launches infringement proceedings against eight Member States

After the entry into force of the new framework for electronic communications, the Commission has taken decisive action to ensure enforcement of the new framework by opening infringement proceedings against Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal for failure to notify transposition measures. Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information society, said: “Following liberalisation of the European telecommunications markets in 1998, which has driven growth and innovation and the widespread availability of services to the public, the Commission now regards it as a priority to encourage timely transposition of the new framework for electronic communication. In addition to providing the legal predictability and regulatory flexibility necessary for continued investment in the sector, this will complement the eEurope objective of achieving competitive local access for internet services over broadband networks as cheaply as possible on a sustainable basis.

In its Communication “Electronic Communications: the Road to the Knowledge Economy”1, the Commission has stressed the importance of full, effective and timely implementation of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications. The aim is to create and maintain a competitive environment that offers incentives to innovate, invest, and improve the quality of the services offered. This view has fully been supported both by the Spring Council and the subsequent Telecoms Council in March 2003.

The Member States, acting in the Council and supported by the European Parliament, set themselves the deadline of 24 July 2003 for the transposition of the main provisions of the new framework.

As of 6 October 2003, seven countries had taken the necessary action to incorporate the Framework, Authorisations, Access and Universal Service Directives into national law. These are: Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the Treaty have now been opened against Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal, which have not yet notified the Commission of transposition measures. The Member States concerned are requested to respond to the Commission's concerns within two months. This is the first stage of infringement procedures.

Background

The Parliament and Council adopted in March 2002 the new package of sector specific regulation designed for more competitive markets and converging electronic communications technologies2.

The directives making up the main elements of the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services are required to be transposed into national law not later than 24 July 2003. The new framework also provides that Member States shall apply those national transposition measures from 25 July 20033, on which date the previous Community instruments which are superseded by those elements of the new framework, were repealed.

As in the past for telecommunications, the Commission will consequently take a pro-active role in enforcing the regulatory framework in electronic communications in order to achieve a maximum of legal certainty for market stakeholders and future investments in this highly dynamic sector.

The Commission is actively following the implementation in the Member States and will continue to take appropriate enforcement action in the event that the obligations of the new framework are not met.

Beyond this, the Commission pointed out that it is important to complement formal infringement proceedings by alternative means to achieve rapid results when monitoring the application of community law.4 Sometimes alternative means of problem solving may be even more effective and proportionate than infringement proceedings. In this regard the Commission is closely working together with the Member States' authorities, and in particular with the independent national regulatory authorities. Such co-operation already takes place in the Communications Committee (COCOM) and the European Regulators Group (ERG) as well as in the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) and the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), but also in bilateral meetings with the Member States.

Commission services are closely monitoring progress on transposition in all the Member States and will continue to question in the Communications Committee those Member States that have not yet transposed the directives. The next meeting of the Communications Committee is on 12 November 2003.

    1 COM(2003) 65 of 11.2.2003.

2 These are Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive); Directive 2002/20/EC (Authorisation Directive); Directive 2002/19/EC (Access Directive); and Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive). Directive 2002/58/EC on privacy and electronic communications has been adopted in July 2002. The Radio Spectrum Decision (676/2002/EC) does not require transposition by Member States. See also:


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